Dr Sfraga was the founding director of the Polar Institute and served as the director of the Global Risk and Resilience Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. He currently serves as chair and distinguished fellow in the Polar Institute.

Sfraga served as distinguished co-lead scholar for the US Department of State’s Fulbright Arctic Initiative from 2015 to 2019. He previously served in several academic, administrative, and executive positions at the University of Alaska, including vice chancellor, associate vice president, faculty member, department chair, and associate dean. Sfraga earned the first PhD in geography and northern studies from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Tell me about your engagement with UArctic?

I became involved in UArctic soon after its inception, supporting and advocating throughout the University of Alaska system the concept of an Arctic university "without walls."

What positions have you held?

I have served alongside my good friend and colleague Dr Ross Virginia of Dartmouth College as the co-creators and co-directors of the Institute for Arctic Policy (IAP), the first sanctioned UArctic Institute that convened international symposia focused on matters related to Arctic policy.

Ross and I built upon the UArctic IAP to create and then co-direct the Department of State's Fulbright Arctic Initiative (FAI), now in its third iteration and led by two FAI alumni. UArctic played an important role in our inaugural activities and programs. I also served as UArctic Head of Delegation during the US Chairmanship of the Arctic Council.

How has your involvement in UArctic shaped your understandings of the Arctic and the issues we should study and research?

UArctic has highlighted the power of collaborative, international education and research driven by local, regional, domestic, and circumpolar priorities as defined by the communities each member institution serves.

Where would you like to see UArctic head over the next decade?

UArctic is needed now more than ever ‒ to ensure that education and research is as cooperative and integrated as possible. As the Arctic becomes more globalized and ever-more integrated into, and impacted by the broader geopolitical landscape, UArctic should play a key role in transforming, facilitating, and expanding educational and research initiatives that meet the demands of our shared Arctic.

By Diane Hirshberg, Vice-President Academic, UArctic, Director, Professor of Education Policy, Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage

[Originally published in the UArctic Shared Voices Magazine 2023. Read all articles here]